The Task Force on the University Policy of Student Sexual Misconduct consists of nine members appointed by the Senate Executive Committee, in consultation with the central administration: three faculty members, Coco Fusco, (NT, Arts), Patricia Grieve (TEN, A&S) and Chair of the Task Force, and Stephen O'Brien (NT, SEAS); two administrators, Margo Amgott (Asst VP Student Services) and Susan Rieger (Assoc Provost Equal Opportunity); and four students, Alida Bouris (Social Work), Melanie Flamm (Barnard), Brian Pompeo (PH) and Jacqueline Russo (CC). In addition, at the suggestion of Margo Amgott, we have been joined regularly by Rachel Efron (Health Clinic Liaison, Health Services). The review of the University Policy and of the resolutions that were adopted by the Senate on February 25, 2000, was to have taken place in 2002. The review was postponed for two years. The current Task Force was formed in December 2003 and began to meet in the spring term of 2004. As of April 27, 2004, the committee will have met five times; we hope to have one more meeting before disbanding for the summer. We plan to present a final report in the early fall.
The University policy is entitled Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures. The Task Force began by trying to understand the policy and procedures as spelled out on the website and reconciling the policy as it stands with the concerns raised by the former director, Misumbo Byrd, as recorded in the minutes of the Senate meeting of September 26, 2003. The committee decided to invite relevant guests to provide historical and current context, clarify issues and areas of concern, and offer suggestions for improvement, if deemed desirable.
While this report must be taken as interim and not final, the general view, even among those guests who raised serious concerns about Columbia's commitment to its policy, is that the policy itself is good, and is on the right track to serving students. The policy and its intent, its ramifications and its implications, have produced passionate views and discussion within the committee and the University. Issues about the language of the policy have been raised, such as the need for the language to be gender-neutral and less confusing in its use of "the complainant," "the accused" and "the respondent." However, there is a perceived (and perhaps real) gap between the policy and procedures, and the ability to carry them out, for reasons that are neither completely clear nor agreed upon by those reporting to the committee, or even among the committee members themselves.
However, three topics return to the table time and again: concerns about sanctions and their relationship--or lack thereof--to the misconduct involved; the harmony of offices on campus and the need for administrative and financial support for the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Education; and the need for those administering these services to achieve a stronger link to the deans of the individual schools. Within these broader topics, permutations of views abound.
The Task Force met on April 19, 2004, at which time it was presented with a letter dated April 16, 2004, from Vice President for Student Services Lisa Hogarty, informing the Task Force of a decision to create a single, integrated department with a new Director, to be hired, "to manage all of Columbia's sexual assault services." While the Task Force applauds all steps designed to improve student services, it lamented the way in which it was abruptly informed of such a decision, given the concerns we have heard over the last three months, some of which do not fit the proposed solution. Some members approve of this move, others believe it adversely limits the committee in terms of future recommendations, for reasons that are best left to further discussion by the Task Force and a final report.
Patricia E. Grieve
Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Professor in the Humanities